May 13, 2010
Northwestern (21-27, 10-8 Big Ten) at Michigan (29-18, 10-8 Big Ten)
Friday, May 14, 2010; 5:30 p.m. CT
Saturday, May 15, 2010; Noon CT
Sunday, May 16, 2010; Noon CT
Ray Fisher Stadium (4,000)
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Streaming Video: BigTenNetwork.com
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
Probable Pitching Matchups
LHP Eric Jokisch (4-5, 4.59 ERA) vs. RHP Alan Oaks (4-5, 3.75 ERA)
RHP Francis Brooke (5-4, 3.86 ERA) vs. LHP Bobby Brosnahan (5-4, 4.64 ERA)
TBA vs. TBA
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Two of the teams tied for first place in the jumbled Big Ten standings square off as Northwestern travels to Michigan for the penultimate weekend of conference play. Friday's opener is slated for 5:30 p.m. Central time, while first pitch is set for noon Saturday and Sunday. All three games can be seen live on BigTenNetwork.com.
With just six games remaining in the Big Ten season, the league standings can best be described as a logjam as only two games separate first place from last place. In addition to NU and Michigan, Minnesota and Purdue are tied for the top spot at 10-8. Indiana and Ohio State are both one game back at 9-9, while Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State and Penn State are still within striking distance at 8-10.
After winning their previous four series, the Wildcats dropped two of three games to Indiana at home last weekend. An early 9-0 deficit proved to be a little too much for Northwestern to overcome as it dropped Friday's opener 11-9. NU bounced back to convincingly win Saturday's contest 11-4 behind a complete-game effort on the mound by Eric Jokisch and four hits by Chris Lashmet. The 'Cats then came up just short in Sunday's finale, allowing an unearned run in the first inning as they fell to the Hoosiers 1-0.
Northwestern took two of three games from Michigan in Evanston last season to conclude the regular season.
Jokisch Returns to Form
The Wolverines (29-18, 10-8) are coming off a 13-10 home loss Wednesday to in-state foe Michigan State in a nonconference contest. Chris Berset paces the Wolverines with a .373 batting average, while Coley Crank is batting .344 with team bests of nine home runs and 51 RBI. Patrick Biondi ranks first in the Big Ten with 56 runs scored and is second with 27 stolen bases. On the mound, Alan Oaks leads all starters with a 3.75 ERA to go along with a 4-5 record. Tyler Burgoon leads the squad with six wins out of the bullpen and paces the Wolverines with 66 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings pitched.
After battling a back injury early in the season, junior left-hander Eric Jokisch
has returned to the form that helped him be named the 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He is 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his first six Big Ten starts, including limiting Ohio State to two runs over eight innings of work in a win over the Buckeyes April 3. Jokisch recorded a season-high eight strikeouts in the team's win at Penn State April 10. The only loss was by a 2-1 margin in a complete-game effort at Purdue April 24. He also hurled a complete game with seven strikeouts in an 11-4 win over Indiana May 8.
Sophomore right-hander Francis Brooke has been pounding the strike zone this season. His command has been outstanding as he has struck out 44 batters while walking only seven in 74.2 innings of work. His average of 0.84 walks per 9 innings pitched ranks fourth nationally. Brooke was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week March 8 after he shut down Loyola Marymount on three hits while striking out six in an eight-inning appearance. He also went all nine innings, allowing one earned run, in an 11-4 victory at Illinois April 30 and leads all NU pitchers with five wins. Freshman southpaw Jack Havey also has an outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratio, fanning 26 batters while walking only six in 19.1 innings pitched. Havey was stellar in a six-inning relief appearance against Milwaukee at Miller Park April 28, retiring all 18 batters he faced.
A large reason for Northwestern's recent hot streak has been the performance of its pitching staff. The Wildcats have allowed more than six runs in a game just four times over last 21 games dating back to April 9. Over that span, NU has lowered its team ERA over a full point from 6.55 to 5.43. Take out a disasterous opening weekend of the season, and Northwestern's ERA this season drops to 4.86. The Wildcats lead the Big Ten with a .272 opponents batting average in conference play and rank second with a 4.52 ERA against league opponents.
Boosting the Bats
The Wildcats posted a team batting average of just .264 last season, but NU has boosted that mark 39 points to .303 this year. NU has notched at least 10 hits in a game 28 times this season after doing so 19 times throughout the entire 2009 campaign.
NU couldn't have been considered a power-hitting team through the majority of this season as the Wildcats hit only 15 home runs in their first 40 games. However, Northwestern has shown the ability to leave the yard lately. After managing just three homers in their first 12 Big Ten games, the Wildcats hit eight in their three-game series at Illinois April 30-May 2. The 'Cats went deep in a season-high seven straight games from April 30-May 8, hitting 13 homers over that span.
Youth is Being Served
Northwestern is putting one of the youngest lineups in the Big Ten on the field this season. Out of a possible 430 starts by position players so far in 2010, 335 (77.9 percent) have been made by either freshmen or sophomores.
Northwestern's roster features two individuals who are also key members of the Wildcats' football team which went 8-5 and participated in the Outback Bowl this past season. Sophomore outfielder Quentin Williams appeared in all 13 games on the gridiron this past fall as a defensive end, posting 14 tackles with an interception and a fumble recovery. True freshman outfielder Arby Fields also appeared in every game as a running back and led the team with 302 rushing yards to go along with five touchdowns. Fields has started 47 of the team's 48 games in center field and sports a .278 batting average with 12 doubles and five home runs. He hit three home runs in a series against Illinois April 30-May 2, including socking a grand slam and a three-run homer in an 11-4 win April 30. His seven RBI in the contest are the most by a Northwestern player in a game since David Gresky had 10 against Chicago State April 15, 2003.
Useful Utility, Part 1
Sophomore Paul Snieder was primarily used as a position player a year ago, but has taken on an added work load this season. After pitching just 6 1/3 innings as a freshman, Snieder has shined on the mound in 2010. He has posted a 1.89 ERA and 10 saves with 31 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters to a .169 average. The 10 saves are two shy of the school single-season record of 12 established by Chris Nichting in 1986. In 20 appearances this season, he has been scored upon just three times. Snieder has been equally impressive at the plate this season. He leads the Big Ten in on-base percentage (.474), third in batting average (.393), fourth in hits (72), sixth in slugging percentage (.596) and seventh in doubles (15).
Useful Utility, Part 2
Zach Morton performed in the opposite role of Snieder during his freshman season in 2009. He was used primarily as a pitcher a year ago, but has started 45 games this season, mainly at second base. Morton has had success with the bat as he is third on the team with a .356 average and has hitting streaks of 11 and 10 games to his credit this season. He is tied for the team lead with 28 walks and his corresponding .455 on-base percentage ranks seventh in the Big Ten. He has continued to be used regularly on the mound as he's fourth on the team with five starts and 39 innings pitched, while striking out 39 batters.
Noble Named to Bench Award Watch List
Northwestern catcher Chad Noble is enjoying an outstanding senior season and has been named to the 2010 Johnny Bench Award Watch List as a result. The Rockwall, Texas, native is second on the team with a .371 batting average and first with four triples and 37 runs scored. Behind the plate, he has helped mentor a young pitching staff and has thrown out 43 percent of baserunners attempting to steal (16 of 37).
Northwestern closes out its 2010 regular season with a three-game home series against Michigan State. The first game begins at 3 p.m. Thursday.
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